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School Counselors Making a Difference

By David Boyce

A smile from a student, acknowledging that she helped in a positive way makes Brenda Wiederholt’s day a little bit better.

Wiederholt arrives at Liberty High School each day eager to make a difference, whether it’s providing services in academic counseling, college and career planning, or personal and emotional issues.

As a counselor and Department Chair for counseling and social work at Liberty, Wiederholt oversees about 250 students and a program that benefits the school because of its diversity of services.

“It is pretty fulfilling to know we do a lot to help our students here,” Wiederholt said. “Primarily, my role is to be a student advocate.”

The service that Wiederholt and the other counselors and social worker provide on a daily basis is greatly appreciated by students, the administration, and Liberty Public Schools.

“Being able to work with this team, I am pretty fortunate,” Wiederholt said. “They are extremely caring, first of all. Secondly, we have qualified, competent staff and teachers and counselors here.”

Wiederholt and all the school counselors in LPS will get just a little more recognition this week as part of National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

The purpose of the week is to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems. Each day has a different theme. On Tuesday it is put the School in School Counselor and Wednesday it is Appreciation followed by Passion for Thursday and College/Career Readiness on Friday.

Wiederholt definitely has the passion for school counseling. After graduating from Northwest Missouri State, she went to Dawes Middle School in Lincoln, Neb., and taught. Some of her duties included working with at-risk students. One year when there was an unexpected opening, her principal asked if she thought about being a school counselor.

“I decided it would be a great path,” Wiederholt said. “I went back to school and became a middle school counselor. That was a very diverse school. I really enjoyed my work with students there. I realized I could make a bigger impact in my work if I became a counselor.”

From Dawes, Wiederholt went to Smithville and for the last 13 years, she has been at Liberty High School.

Technology has created a few changes in her 25 years in education.

“When I first started being a counselor, we had to walk to our mailbox to get messages from teachers and administrators,” she said. “Those days are gone.”

Students also have more access to information and easier ways to communicate with each other.

“I would say students have always had struggles,” Wiederholt said. “I have seen an increase in anxiety to do the immediacy they can reach each other.

“But then I have also seen some definite positive changes, too. Sometimes the ease of access to information makes our students more capable of handling a situation. They are more aware of what is going on in the world. They can make that choice to be more aware, which is a good thing. So it has its pros and cons.”

In addition to her duties as a school counselor, Wiederholt is also a sponsor for the Diversity Club and Women’s Issues Now at Liberty. The Diversity Club meets once a week and has anywhere from 20 to 25 students attend. Women’s Issue Now also meets weekly.

Wiederholt likes the fact Liberty High School has a wide-range of clubs and organizations for students to join.

“I think it is important when you are a teenager to be able to express your thoughts openly and feel safe and connected,” Wiederholt said. “I think all the organizations and opportunities our students have here helps them grow.”

The main objective of a school counselor is to help students achieve success in the classroom and career planning.

“You can help them make positive decisions,” Wiederholt said.